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Spring To-Do List

What to do now:

  • Plant shrubs, container roses, perennials and trees now.
  • Spread pre-emergent on your lawn and in your flower beds if you have not done so yet this spring.
  • You can lay sod in your yard.  It will not be green, but the roots will grow into your soil and the grass should begin to green up by the middle of April depending upon temperature.
  • You can fertilize your rose bushes once you begin to see new growth emerging.
  • Fertilize established shrubs in late March or early April, use an all purpose granular fertilizer (13-13-13) and make sure to water it in thoroughly.
  • Watch for aphids on plants this time of year.  They are small and come in a variety of colors and can be found on the new growth of your plant.  Treat with insecticide and prevent re-infestation with a systemic insecticide.
  • Finish up pruning any summer blooming shrubs by the end of March. 
  • Established perennials should be cleaned up (remove dead stems, leaves, etc.) and fertilized this month or in early April.  Use an all-purpose granular fertilizer (13-13-13) and water it in thoroughly. 
  • Fertilize seasonal color (annuals) with a water-soluble fertilizer to promote growth and flowering.
  • You can continue to prune deciduous trees during March.

What not to do yet:

  • Wait until mowing grass (not weeds) 2 times before fertilizing your lawn.
  • Wait until after your azaleas bloom to fertilize the plant.
  • The soil is not warm enough to plant warm season grass seed like Centipede, Bermuda or Zoysia.  Soil temperature must be over 65 degrees for the seed to germinate.  Wait until our night-time temps are at least 65 degrees consistently (mid April).
  • Do not prune pine trees in March – they tend to bleed more during this time of the year.
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6 Mistakes Homeowners Make

That Landscapers HATE to Fix

Overplanting

While more MAY be better in some cases, it’s not better to have more in your landscape. Not spacing out your plants and over-filling them may offer instant gratification for the first year your new plants are in the ground, but in two years, your plants will begin to die because they’re fighting for space and nutrients. This common mistake is a HUGE WASTE of time and money.

HINT: Fill in empty spots with annual flowers until your shrubs mature!

Not Knowing Your Landscape’s Needs

You’ll want to have an idea of what your yard requires and then choose plants that fit those requirements. How much direct sunlight does your yard get daily? Is your soil clay-based, sandy, or rocky? Are there any water restrictions? Are there drainage issues? Knowing the answers to these questions can help you make the best choices for your landscape. There is NO REASON not to research and learn more about the plants you are putting in your landscape. Planting shade plants in sun, or sun plants in shade is an inexcusable snafu in any landscape.

Starting Without A Plan

Don’t go to a Garden Center with a “my heart will guide me” mentality. This will lead to over purchasing and a major loss of money. You’ll also run into issues during your landscape install that could’ve been solved by planning ahead.

Not Paying Attention To The Style Of Your House

Your landscape should complement your home and increase your curb appeal! Different landscape styles work better aesthetically, so always use the look and structure of your house when deciding on garden bed shapes (i.e. A farmhouse-style home won’t work with a formal landscape). Unsure where to start?

HINT: Use a garden hose to help aid in the process of figuring out the shape of each bed; lay out the hose on the ground and use it as your guide, it’s soft and can follow the curves of your house, leading to perfect garden bed shapes.

Planting Too Close To Your Home

When planting, you must bear in mind that bushes, trees and plants WILL get bigger! Where you plant them is SO important – typically, leaving a minimum of 1-3 feet between your plants and your house. Ignoring how large a tree or bush will get can lead to walkway, sidewalk and foundation damage – or, even worse, it can rot your siding, allowing moisture and bugs to creep into your home. Not cool.

Relying On Pinterest To Do Your Landscape

It is SO EASY to get excited and jump into a project when you scroll through Pinterest. HOWEVER, you need to keep in mind the time, resources, and money that go into the ‘simple’ photos you see online. While it can be helpful for ideas, you have to get real about where you and your yard are located zone-wise and how much the project will cost overall.

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How To Plant In Red Clay Soil

So many people in the South have red clay soil.

This stuff is mushy and disgusting when it is wet; but when it is dry, it takes on a form almost like concrete. Worst of all? It’s completely nutrient deficient.

Red clay soon becomes waterlogged during rainy weather. When soil stays wet, the water can cut off the air supply to roots, as well as to microorganisms in soil that are important to your plant’s well being. Root rot, suffocation, and many other diseases can occur.

Adding to the plant’s misery, when clay soil finally does dry out, roots struggle to spread through the hard soil. How can a poor plant survive?

Don’t give up! While you need good drainage for plants to survive, having red clay soil and nice plants in your landscape isn’t impossible! With a little prep and TLC, you can grow beautiful shrubs, just by enhancing the texture and drainage of your soil. Below is a drawing, courtesy of Encore® Azaleas of how to prep and plant shrubs in clay soil!


EA-220_FS_How_to_Plant_Red_Clay_8.5x11in_2018_ (1)
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Top 5 Shrubs to Use for Screening Purposes

  1. Elaeagnus – terrible name, great plant!  The silver-green leaf color gives you great contrast in your landscape.  Highly drought tolerant once established and can
    elaeagnus

    Elaeagnus

    handle almost any soil conditions.  They grow quickly to a 8’x8’ and taller and thrive in full sun or part sun.  They are DEER RESISTANT too!!

  2. Southern Wax Myrtle – Olive-green aromatic foliage makes this plant stand out along with the bluish berries
    wax myrtle (2)

    Wax Myrtle

    produced by the female plants. The standard size will reach 15 feet tall while the dwarf species reaches 6-8 feet tall.  It is drought tolerant once established and grows well in both moist and dry soil conditions.  n full sun or part shade.  They are DEER RESISTANT too!!

  3. Pineapple Guava – Beautiful, exotic red and white flowers bloom on this large shrub in the spring, followed by guava fruit in the fall. The leaves are light green,
    pineapple guava

    Pineapple Guava

    leathery with soft gray undersides.  It will grow to about 15’ – 20’ tall in full sun or partial sun.  Deer do not seem to bother these plants.

  4. Nellie R Stevens Holly – Very attractive holly with dark green, leathery foliage. Dense branching
    nellie r stevens

    ‘Nellie R. Stevens’ Holly

    makes it an excellent hedge screen.  It produces large, bright orange-red berries in late Fall.  Fast growing tree/shrub reaching heights of 15’- 25’.  Grows well in sun or partial sun in both dry and moist soil conditions.

  5. Leyland Cypress – A fast-growing coniferous evergreen tree – up to 3’ of growth per year. Has a natural Christmas tree shape but
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    Leyland Cypress

    can be grown close together and trimmed as hedges.  Prefers full sun for best performance.  This tree can reach 50+ feet if left untrimmed.

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How to get RID of WEEDS!

Weeds – We all hate them, but we all have them.  I am going to share with you an easy way to kill weeds in your flower beds – it will work using either an organic or a chemical weed spray.   If done correctly there will be no more crawling around in your bed pulling weeds, no more aching backs or ruined manicures.

What you will need

Your weed killer of choice mixed up in a sprayer, a large piece of cardboard and a helper.  You will be spraying weeds in your flower bed, but don’t panic…..done correctly it will not harm your plants or shrubs – and here’s why.

 

The Secret: 

The poison is absorbed through the foliage of the weed – it travels down through the plant into the roots and kills it from the root up.  Think of the spray as a bullet.  If a bullet hits you – you die.  If the bullet zings past you – you are unharmed.  This works on the same principle.

 

The Fun Part: 

So step into your flower bed and use the cardboard as a barrier between you and your “good” plants.  You can spray all around your bed by shielding your shrubs with the cardboard – this is where the helper comes into play.  They can maneuver the cardboard around your plants while you spray the weeds.  It doesn’t take very long to accomplish spraying even large beds.

This method is very effective on both nut grass and Bermuda grass along with other weeds.  Over a period of time the number of weeds that reappear will decrease.  If you combine spraying with broadcasting a pre-emergent weed killer throughout your flower bed quarterly you will eventually be almost weed free.

 

Tips and Hints: 

  • When mixing your poison add a spreader sticker to your sprayer. This helps the poison stick to the weed and not drip off onto the ground so more poison is absorbed into the weed and it is killed faster.
  • Choose a non-windy time to spray to help prevent overspray from floating through the air to good plants.
  • If you do happen to spray a good plant by accident wash it off with the water hose. The plant could be cosmetically damaged but the root ball of the plant will not be effected.
  • Do not weed eat prior to spraying since the foliage is what absorbs the poison.
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“Which fertilizer should I use for annuals?”

We hear this question daily.  All plants – annuals, shrubs, perennials and trees need proper nutrients to grow, stay healthy and look good.  But there are so many fertilizer choices it is easy to be discouraged and end up choosing the easy route – a slow-release fertilizer.  Apply it once and be done with fertilizing for the season.fertilized vs unfertilized plants

Sounds easy, right?  While great for many plants (shrubs) it is not the best for your annuals and hanging baskets.  They need more than a slow-release fertilizer can give them.  They are best fed with a water-soluble fertilizer.

Water soluble fertilizers are fertilizers that can be dissolved in water and makes it is easy to control the precise amount of nutrients available to your plants.  Soluble fertilizers usually have N-P-K numbers listed on their label.  bloom plusThe N is for nitrogen, the P is for phosphorus and the K is for potassium or potash.

Of the 16 (12 of which are contained in water soluble fertilizers) known elements necessary for plant life, N-P-K, are the three that are of the most importance and always listed on water soluble fertilizers, in that order.

  • Nitrogen is the most important of the nutrients and is essential to the production of chlorophyll and is responsible for leaf growth, as well as, overall size of the plant.
  • Phosphorus is necessary for photosynthesis and provides for energy transfer within the plant and is associated with the fruiting or flowering stages of growth.
  • Potassium, or potash, increases chlorophyll levels, helps plants make better use of light and air and increases growth by cell division.

all purposeThe ultimate goal of fertilizing is to supply your plant with the right amount of liquid feednutrients.  Applying a water soluble fertilizer to the annuals and perennials both in the ground and in containers every 7 to 14 days can make a remarkable difference.

Ultimately, your plants will only be as great as the care they receive, and while understanding the best fertilizer for the job may take a little bit of work, the rewards of healthier, longer-lasting plants is the pay off.

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Powdery Mildew: What it is and how to get rid of it!

I’ve received numerous questions these past 2 weeks asking what is the powdery substance on my plants and what can I do about it.  You will find it frequently on Crape Myrtles, Indian hawthorn, and roses – but no plant is immune.powdery mildew 2  It is the most common and easily recognized plant disease and is both treatable and, more importantly, preventable by using a fungicide – preferably one that is systemic.  The disease is caused by a fungus and is called Powdery Mildew.

Recognizing Powdery Mildew:  It looks like powdery splotches of white or gray on the leaves and stems of plants.  There are different types of the fungi but they all look the same.

What causes it:  The fungi is everywhere – it overwinters in leaves on the ground and begins producing spores in the spring which are carried by wind and insects to your plant.  High humidity seems to play a part in its growth.

What it does:  Although unattractive it isn’t usually fatal to the plant.  It will stress a plant and infected leaves will gradually turn brown and papery and often fall off prematurely.   If buds are infected they may not open.

powdery mildewThe Good News:  Powdery mildew is host specific – meaning if it is on one type of plant it won’t transfer to another type of plant.  For example:  the powdery mildew on a rose bush will not spread to any other plant except another rose bush.

Treatment:  Use of a systemic fungicide has been successful in treatment in the early stages of the disease and even more importantly in prevention of the disease.  Fertilome Liquid Systemic Fungicide II with propiconazole is recommended for use on powdery mildew.

Other Hints: 

  • Choose plant species that have resistance to powdery mildews. Some examples are the powdery mildew-resistant crape myrtles – most Indian names varieties are in this group.
  • Don’t let years of leaf debris build up in your beds.
  • Pruning or removing infected leaves or stems can help reduce the amount of the fungus.
  • Poor airflow to plants seems to contribute to the problem also, so avoid overcrowding of plants in your landscape.
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What’s Mulch Got To Do With It?

Want to save $$ and water your flower beds less – maybe even 50% less?

Proper use of “nature’s moisturizer” – that’s what some call it, can make that big of a difference.  I’m talking about mulch – and that’s only one of the advantages of its use.mulch before and after

What is mulch?  It is any type of material that is spread over the surface of the soil.  Shredded wood, pine straw, shredded leaves, pecan hulls, gravel to name a few.

  • It is used to retain the moisture in the soil and to cut down on evaporation when spread at 3” deep.
  • Shielding plants’ roots from temperature extremes is also another benefit. Mulch provides protection from heat in the summer and cold in the winter.
  • By blocking out light to the soil it also discourages the growth of weeds.
  • It can add color and texture to the space between plants, giving a flower bed a finished look.

mulch 2The most asked question is, “How much mulch do I need for my bed?”

  1. Find the total square footage of the area: length X width = square footage.
  2. One cubic foot will cover 4 sq. ft. 3” deep.
  3. Ex: your bed measures 10 x 5 = 50 sq. ft.  50 divided by 4 = 12.5 cubic feet to cover the bed 3” deep.
  4. (Or you can call us and we can calculate it for you)

A word of caution, don’t mound mulch up on the trunk of trees or plants.  This will keep the trunks too moist and the plant will develop problems.

Shredded bark mulch can be purchased in bags or more economically by bulk loads.

Your mulch will decompose over time, so check to make sure you have good even coverage at the proper depth.  You can add an additional inch to thin existing mulch and gain another year of protection.

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Moisture Meters: How to Utilize this ‘Secret Weapon’

Ever ask yourself – “Why did that plant die”? or “Why does that plant look so bad?”  Believe it or not, the most frequent cause is either over or under watering a plant.moisture meter   It’s hard to know how much to water a plant if you don’t know how wet or dry the soil is.  Sticking your finger into the dirt is one way of determining the moisture content, but I have a much cleaner, faster and accurate method to share with you…..

It’s a moisture meter.  These simple, inexpensive, measuring devices consist of a metal probe on one end and a small meter on the other.  When you insert the probe into the soil it immediately measures the moisture content and registers it on the dial readout.   It is easy to read and tells you if the soil is dry, moist or wet.

How it works.  Insert the probe about 4 – 6 inches into the soil in the root zone of the plant and read the results on the dial.  Move the probe to another area on the same plant in order to gain a true picture of the soil moisture.  To measure a newly planted shrub insert the probe close to the base of the plant – usually within 3-5 inches of the stem.  An established plant that has been either potted or planted for some time will have a larger root system so you can measure further out from the main stem to get an accurate reading.  Read the scale to find what your moisture level is and then water accordingly.  Only one moisture meter is necessary to check all of your plants – don’t leave it in the plant or outside in the rain or direct sunlight.

Not all plants are alike.  If you are unsure as to how much water a particular plant needs you can find the answer quickly by searching the internet for information on the plant – or call one of us at The Home and Garden Center and we can help you.

No more guess work is necessary when watering either houseplants or shrubs in your flower beds.  Not all plants like the same amount of water – some like it on the dry side, while others require a consistently wet soil.  By using a moisture meter you can accurately measure individual plants and help maintain the correct water level for all plants.

Healthier plants perform to their fullest and providing the right amount of water at the right time is very important to their health.  Lack of water creates extra stress for the plant making it more susceptible to disease.   It can cause plants to wilt, with their leaves curling and dropping off.  Dry conditions or infrequent watering can result in plants losing their lustrous color, they fade to a duller shade of green.  On the opposite end of the scale too much water can drown a plant and cause its roots to starve for oxygen.

Other watering tips: Make sure to use mulch in your flower beds to help not only block weed growth but to help prevent evaporation of moisture from your soil.

Install drip irrigation that waters the root zone of each plant – it is very efficient and cost effective.

Water the soil not the leaves.  Water droplets can act like mini-magnifying glasses and burn your plant.

Don’t rely on rain to have watered your plants sufficiently, check anyhow. Sometimes a plant’s foliage and flowers can act like an umbrella and actually keep water from getting to your soil.

Don’t let your soil dry out completely between watering. Extremely dry soil won’t absorb water – it seems to repel water.  A good soaking is required to bring the soil back to the correct moisture content.

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The Word on Worm Castings: How do they work? What can they be used for?

Worm castings are the richest natural fertilizer known to humans. That’s right: as little as a tablespoon of pure worm castings provides enough organic plant nutrients to feed a 6″ potted plant for more than two months. 

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Worm castings stimulate plant growth more than any other natural product on the market. Unlike animal manure and artificial fertilizers it is absorbed easily and immediately by plants.

What Can Worm Castings Be Used For?

Worm Castings can be used as an ingredient of potting soil (as plant nutrients) for plants in and around the house. It can also be used as a planting additive for trees, vegetables, shrubs and flowers and because Worm Castings will never burn plants, you can use as much of it as you like.

Benefits of Worm Castings

  1. Removal of toxins & bacteria
    • The humus in the worm castings extracts toxins and harmful fungi and bacteria from the soil. Worm Castings therefore have the ability to fight off plant diseases.
  2. Assists with nutrient absorption
    • The worm castings have the ability to fix heavy metals in organic waste. This prevents plants from absorbing more of these chemical compounds than they need. These compounds can then be released later when the plants need them.
  3. Works as a barrier in undesirable soil pH levels
    • Worm Castings act as a barrier to help plants grow in soil where the pH levels are too high or too low. They prevent extreme pH levels from making it impossible for plants to absorb nutrients from the soil.
  4. Stimulates plant growth
    • The humic acid in Worm Castings stimulate plant growth, even in very low concentrations. The humic acid is in an ionically distributed state in which it can easily be absorbed by the plant, over and above any normal mineral nutrients. Humic acid also stimulates the development of micro flora populations in the soil.
  5. Increases water retention
    • Worm Castings increase the ability of soil to retain water. The worm castings form aggregates, which are mineral clusters that combine in such a way that they can withstand water erosion and compaction, and also increase water retention.
  6. Reduces carbon and increases nitrogen in soil
    • Worm Castings reduce the acid-forming carbon in the soil, and increase the nitrogen levels in a state that the plant can easily use. Organic plant wastes usually have a carbon-nitrogen ratio of more than 20 to 1. Because of this ratio, the nitrogen is unavailable to plants, and the soil around the organic waste becomes acidic.

How to use Worm Castings:

For Germinationwiggle magic_01

Use 20 to 30% Worm Castings with sand as an excellent germination mixture. It will also ensure continuous and lush growth for about three months, without you having to add any other plant food.

As a Soil Conditioner

If you hoe a layer of barren soil, add a layer of Worm Castings and give it some water, you will be surprised at the growth of your first season’s plants.

As a Fertilizer

Sprinkle Worm Castings around the base of plants or lightly dig it in, and then add water. They can also be sprinkled on a large scale with a spreader. Remember: you cannot use too much Worm Castings, they cannot damage your plants.

As a Liquid Fertilizer

Worm Castings can easily be mixed with water. Use 1 cup Worm Castings for every gallon of water and wait 1 week. This liquid mixture can be used as an excellent fertilizer or leaf foliate spray. It also helps to control insects. Many people prefer this method of application.

We have known for hundreds of years that earthworms are the best way to improve plant growth and to increase plant yield, such as fruit.

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